Sad, scary, frightening, infuriating…real. Is it an illness? Is it a lifestyle choice? People will answer this different ways. I seem to always find myself riding somewhere in the middle. Yes, I do believe it is an illness, but whether you seek treatment or not is a choice.
Now before everyone starts screaming at me, please hear me out. I say the things I do from a place of hurt. My brother has been afflicted with addiction for 20+ years now. It has been terrifying and heartbreaking to say the least. To watch the one person I most admired and wanted to be like, slowly descend into the darkest abyss known to man has deeply scarred my soul.
Looking back at all the signs that were missed, I can’t help but feel guilty sometimes. Had we only been educated, had I only been older and able to make better efforts to help earlier on, but why should I feel guilty. He made that choice to take too many pills. He made that choice to inhale the poison. He made that choice to inject the devil into his arms. Why am I the one to be responsible for saving him?
Save him I cannot. Only one time did he ever come to me for help, and without hesitation I dropped everything in my world to get him treatment. I searched for the best clinic I could find that would accept his insurance. I drove from Michigan to Ohio and back to get him there, to check up on him, and then to bring him home. I allowed him to live with me so he could get back on his feet, but that didn’t happen.
I knew relapse was a most likely occurrence, as it is with most addicts. I even told him if it happens to just let me know and we’ll get him right back on track, but he went right back into denial. I suppose we all did. He went to meetings for a bit, but then said it was too depressing. I found him passed out in a cereal bowl one night. Another time my daughter wanted to know why her uncle was asleep on our front step. At this point I was about to have him leave, but he decided shortly after that he was going to leave the state.
We thought maybe that would be good for him, getting away from all the triggers so to speak, but that was a pipedream too. What was so frustrating for me was that no one would listen when I said he was relapsing. I can’t tell you how alone I felt. As if I was in the wrong for saying such things.
Fast forward a few years. He had flown back and forth for visits and such, and eventually moved back. Nothing had changed. I noticed secretive behavior while he was at my house visiting with me, trips to the bathroom with a tote bag, a spoon disappearing from my drawer. And still no one would listen. I almost started to think I was imagining it all.
Finally one day our mother came to me and said she heard from someone that he was using, and asked what we should do. I told her we needed to confront him and get him help again. She agreed. I went to their house (where he was, and still is, living) and we all sat down with him. It was the stereotypical intervention. He was angry, how dare we accuse him of using, and what about everyone else and their problems, and then our mother started yelling at him. It was a failed effort, I basically stood alone with no one backing me up. It could not have gone more wrong.
I saw him a couple of days later. I told him I was not trying to hurt him, I just wanted to extend the offer of help to him, and that if it turned out I was wrong I would absolutely apologize. He said ok. He also told me that while he was not using heroin, he did inject oxycontin, but that it wasn’t a problem. That was probably the last conversation we had.
We have exchanged some text messages at times, but it’s nothing like it used to be. I miss him terribly, and still to this day, if he were to come to me for help I would drop everything to try and save him…because that’s just what I do. However, as a mother, I had to make the painful decision to keep a distance between us. I will not have my children in a potentially dangerous situation. As the little sister, I had to accept the fact that the brother I once adored is lost and may never return. As a woman, as a human, I had to make the difficult decision to stop allowing myself to be hurt.
Maybe you think I am wrong for my decision, but as long as our parents continue to enable him, all my efforts will fail. Now, I can’t say 100% that he is still using because I haven’t been around, but realistically speaking…how many addicts just woke up one day and said, “eh, I’m done with this”, and moved along? I can only hope.
Now, what has stirred all this incessant chatter from me? Clearly, the passing of beloved actor Philip Seymour Hoffman has everyone stirred up. It was shocking, and tragic, and a perfect example that none of us are immune to the effects of addiction. Regardless of your background or lifestyle, we are all human beings, we all struggle day to day, but for some of us the days are just too much to bare. All we can hope is that someone will learn from this horrible loss. If even only one person gets treatment, then his death will not be in vain.
I tell my children every single day, “Don’t take drugs”! Yes, I got that from Almost Famous, ironically enough, but I do this every day with the hope that if one day they are presented with that decision, they will hear my voice and walk away. Taking drugs is never the answer to your life problems. It may take the sting away for a moment, but when the sting returns it will return with a vengeance, and you will find yourself with more problems than you ever dreamed of.
A little off topic, but still relevant to my point, I tell them the same thing about suicide. Sadly, this is an issue that kids do deal with, and I tell them it is never the answer. We all have bad days, we all have bad moments, but those pass. You just have to tough it out for a little while, and before you know it things fall back into place. I saw a quote somewhere, I can’t remember who it was by, but it went something like this, “Don’t make a permanent decision based on a temporary feeling.” Wow! To me that speaks volumes, and can be applied to so many aspects of life.
Something I cannot understand is why our society is so quick to kill the pain by any means possible? Pain isn’t always a bad thing. Pain gives us strength and character. It gives us humanity. It gives us life. Without pain, how could we ever appreciate pleasure?
So why do I share all of this with you today? I do it with hope. Hope that if you are an addict reading this that you will get help. On behalf of your family, friends and loved ones, please seek treatment, it is out there. Don’t be embarrassed, or ashamed to ask, there is no shame or embarrassment in being strong enough to take the needed steps to better your life. Sure, you may fall down a time or two, we all do, but you get back up and keep moving forward. Yes, I bet you’ve had some bad breaks, and I bet a lot of people have let you down, but none of that matters…all that matters is today, and today is your chance to change your world. It is never too late to make your dreams come true. It does not matter what roads you have traveled, what matters is where they brought you, and now you have the opportunity to choose the path of hopes and dreams. People love you, people care about you, people miss you. Take your life back today!
©Gloria Tassen and Life According To G, 2014. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Gloria Tassen and Life According To G with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.